Out of the Park Baseball 13 Review (PC)
The best baseball game available gets better, thanks to some smart improvements.
I’ll skip the typical introductions and get right to the point: If you’ve played Out of the Park in prior years, you should buy OOTP 13. If you like text sims, you should by OOTP 13. If you’ve never heard of OOTP, but love baseball (and own a PC), you should really consider buying OOTP 13.
It’s really that simple. OOTP 13 represents the current pinnacle of text and baseball sims, and is a game nearly all baseball fans will enjoy.
The basic gameplay of OOTP 13 remains as solid as ever. At its core, it’s a GM/manager simulation allowing you to manage rosters, salaries, line-ups, etc. It’s also extremely customizable; you can tweak league settings, replay historical seasons, start as a minor league manager with little control, or create an expansion team.The options are staggering, and allow you to experience the game in a huge variety of ways.
However, some new elements make what OOTP did in the past even better. A redesigned interface puts all of the important tasks in one place, with reminders of critical dates and items that need your attention. The toolbar along the bottom has been placed on the side by default, and while I like its new position, it did take some getting used to. I also wish that the full inbox was on the main manager homescreen; it may be cluttered on some monitors, but running at full-screen I have plenty of unused real estate.
Another gameplay addition is the “Real-time Simulation” mode. It doesn’t add much functionality to the game, but certainly increases the overall pressure felt while playing as a GM. And, with various speed choices, simming ahead feels much more organic than simple pressing the “next day” button.
The trade engine also received some attention. It’s much harder to pry away big name stars, though I’ve seen AI teams more than willing to drop big contracts. Still, trading is easier if you shop your players around and then use the “make this work now” feature. However, in my time with the game, I got scammed once or twice using this method.
There are numerous other gameplay enhancements, including more realistic player development, the option to have historical players show up in your franchise, various playoff formats, news story images, and more. The list of improvements is long, but most of the changes are subtle. That said, the improvements haven’t broken anything and collectively improve every aspect of the game.
In addition to the redesigned user interface mentioned above, everything has a cleaner and brighter look this year. Everything is logically placed; most names are links to deeper information. Again, long-time OOTP-users might need a bit of time to figure out where some options are.
One nice touch is the importable graphics, logos, and player faces that give everything an "almost-official" feel. These packages are found in a convenient online add-ons center. Once downloaded, they practically install themselves. This is a nice perk for those who like real logos, but aren’t able to spend the time customizing each team and park.
In-game, the actual gameplay visuals remain the same, with static player pictures and an animated ball. At some point, I think OOTP will need to include some basic player animations; however, most fans of the series probably see them as a bonus and not a requirement.
I did encounter a few graphical glitches that will most likely be patched (and may already be so by the time you read this). For a few games, I didn’t see the animated ball while managing a game. And using the fullscreen in Mac OS 10.7, I occasionally got a blank screen when app-switching.
This game fully embodies the term “lasting appeal,” with so many ways to play and so many customizable options. Even playing the basic “MLB Quickstart’ (with 2012 rosters) multiple times will feel different, as each new play through will take on a life of its own. Online and historical universes add other ways to play, and you can import games saved in last year’s version.
I’ll quote myself from last year’s review: “OOTP continues to be a game with so many options that if you think ‘I wish it could do this,’ a little clicking and menu searching may prove that you can do it after all.” This sentiment stays true for OOTP 13, as does nearly all the praise I lauded onto OOTP 12.
Again, this should be an automatic buy for anyone with an ounce of baseball interest. My biggest complaint with OOTP 12 was its interface, which got an effective overhaul for OOTP 13. While it still has quite the learning curve, the manager home screen puts the important stuff (almost) all in one place. And new features, like Real-time Simulation and Interactive Storylines help create a deeper sense of immersion.
Learning Curve: A bit toned down due to refinements in the interface; still, it might take some work to fully understand all that you can do.
Visuals: Everything looks better this year, especially if you use the OOTP Dark skin. In-game animations remain the same.
Lasting Appeal: Again, you could play this until next spring and still not experience all the different ways to play. A true “sandbox” game.
Audio: In game audio adds some great ambiance and is really reactive to situations.
Realism: I haven’t found anything objective to complain about, though I got burned by bad scouting and bad trades that I initiated. Injuries seem toned down compared to last year.